A fledgling mining operation in Western Australia’s Mid West is set to join a growing number of resource sector sites that are employing solar PV and/or storage to reduce energy costs.
Image Resources is developing the Boonanarring mineral sands operation 80 km north of Perth. The site is expected to begin production in Q4 2018, with construction currently underway. The mine will produce high-grade zircon-rich mineral sands, Image claims.
The heavy mineral concentrate operation will be 25% powered by solar PV, in a deal struck with solar developer Sunrise Energy. The mine operator will not own the PV power plant, but rather purchase the power from Sunrise Energy under an undisclosed PPA.
The two companies have signed a binding Heads of Agreement contract under which the solar array will be developed.
Sunrise Energy will install the 3-4 MW solar array on land adjacent to the mineral sands operation and leased from Image. The PV will be integrated into Image’s microgrid ‘behind the meter’.
“We are pleased to be one of the pioneering WA mining companies adopting distributed renewable electricity generation” said Patrick Mutz, Managing Director of Image Resources. “Not only will the solar farm supply power in an environmentally sustainable manner, its construction will result in a further six-to-seven million dollars of capital investment by Sunrise Energy Group into a long-life asset located in the shire of Gingin, creating both construction and operational employment.”
Indicating that the solar PV is more aimed at Corporate Social Responsibility rather than power savings, Image MD Mutz said that the system “could also provide small savings in annual electricity costs”.
“The adoption of large-scale distributed generation by the commercial and industrial sector in WA has been very limited to date,” said Neil Canby, Executive Director, Sunrise Energy Group in a statement. “Image Resources has taken the time to work through our commercial model and evaluate the opportunity as a potential large load industrial customer, including the social, environmental and economic benefits of having distributed renewable energy generation for their mining project.”
Sunrise’s Canby noted that the WA electricity market presents “unique challenges and opporttunites” when compared to the National Electricity Market. He added that the model being deployed at the Image Resources’ site could be replicated “for many large rural loads across WA that are connected to the grid.”
Construction on the 3-4 MW solar array is planned for early 2019 – after the necessary approvals have been secured.